Joshua Bigger’s fantasy book Dark’s Daughter Hope definitely falls into the former category. It’s a self-published work that I downloaded during a promotional run via Twitter. It had some emotive reviews on Amazon
It’s a wonderful book. Joshua manages to weave an intricate, adult plot that seamlessly merges world-building, memorable characters and multi-layered topics. The narrative follows several characters through a period of significant change in the world of Galan. Tanlray is attending a festival called The Choosing, in which the sorcerous God-kin select groups of eager young pups to join their servants, on the premise that they too begin to wield magic. This magic is focused through acquisition of Sharka gems that relate to channels of power running through organs, with the God-kin being the possessors of all seven. Tanlray becomes inadvertently involved with Blak, who is a mysterious individual fighting against the God-kin.
At the same time we follow further sets of characters—Bendit, Miran, Valadin and Krantz—who become associated with a bitter sorcerer, Maan. Their adventure runs initially parallel to Tanlray’s journey, but inevitably everyone meets together and learns the secrets of the Sharka gems.
The tale is brutal and uncompromising—this is not a fantasy book for the easily upset or offended. It treads the same ground as dark fantasy writers like George RR Martin, Joe Abercrombie and Steven Erikson, and ups its game to rival those writers. The characters are diverse and challenging, and not all likeable. Their needs are sometimes petty and sometimes selfish, and this makes them interesting and realistic. The action is visceral and makes for harsh reading at points, but is laced with a very black streak of humour (one scene, when we first meet Blak, he focuses his Svad and Mulad magic from his aching penis and decapitates his opponent).
The book works on several levels, as all good books should. Bigger’s underlying theme about the corruption and deception of blind faith is a key focus of the book. The God-kin are, by and large, arseholes who manipulate and abuse those who are devoted to them. That two of the main characters are God-kin and, despite their appalling behaviour, become anti-heroes that you almost enjoy reading about, is a testament to Bigger’s text. Ultimately the themes of love, comradeship and appeasement emerge and I was left having enjoyed the book and looking forward to the sequels. And, simply put, the characters of Cat and Stinker are inspired....
I asked Joshua a few questions about the book and about his writing:
Me: Let's start gently, Joshua. Who are your biggest influences inand out of the fantasy genre?
Joshua: Hi, Ross, thanks for having me!
I always stayed up late as a kid, reading by my Donald Duck night light, or with a flash light under the covers. I’ve read thousands of books! But to keep it manageable, here’s a short list,sans all the emotions, meaning, and memories associated with them.
Lloyd Alexander, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Frank Herbert, Roger Zelazny, JohnNorman, Dennis Schmidt, Tad Williams, Robert Jordan, Robin Hobb, and George RRMartin. Several other great influences are Carlos Castaneda, George Gurdjieff, and Jiddu Krishnamurti.
Me: Dark's Daughter Hope has a superb system of magic. I loved the integral way it plays into the plot line. Where did you develop the idea from?
Joshua: The notion of energy predators is ancient, from demons and vampiresto modern Republicans. We see and experience it in daily life all the time. It’sthe basic feudalism of human society, with all of its dominance issues, money,food, and sex. Recently, the film ‘The Matrix’ beautifully expressed theseideas visually, human beings serving as batteries for elites of whatevernature.
Secondly, I wanted to explore basic perversions of life energy,so chose the chakras as a system somewhat familiar to the casual reader. I alsoliked the idea of transmitting talent or energy in David Farland’s ‘TheRunelords,’ but instead of a direct one-on-onecorrespondence between the transmitter and receiver, I preferred a more general, random fire in the population at large.
Finally, since the book is thematically non-dual, or Advaita Vedanta,the action, the universe itself, is all happening in the context of an Infinite,Conscious Being. Which is a challenge to verbalize in and of itself.
Me: I thought that the some of the sexual violence in the book, although vital, was hard to read. They must be tough sections to write?
Joshua: Those scenes, though brief, are difficult because they’re generally expressions of emotional immaturity, or corruption. Something twisted, blocked, or denied,instead of free flowing sexual/life energy. At the same time, we are animals, with all of the urges of an animal, combined with our unique capacity for manipulating our own nervous systems via imagination. So, those scenes are graphically masturbatory, as they involve a one way taking. Dardaryk abuses authority and power by raping a human being he should be protecting. In the case of Maan, his need overrides his reason while Miran is unconscious. In those two instances, consent and sharing is impossible. Both scenes illustrate a profound inability to deal with another living being. It's masturbation in different forms.
Thoughts and desires rise mechanically in all of our minds, and if the average person were honest, they’d admit to living in a mental cesspool of fear, lust, hunger, and frustration. When these urges and emotions arecombined with the awareness of impending death, the desperation drives men and women to extreme acts in spite of the denials or justifications, in spite of the consolations and dreams, of their contrived personas
Me: Fantasy series are notoriously like series of Lost- going on with no end in sight. You got a set number of books in mind?
Joshua: I hear you. I’ve waited for over twenty years to finish reading ‘TheWheel of Time.’ Unfortunately, even though I like Brandon Sanderson, I no longer have any interest in Rand and company (though I must say, the first six books are an incredible achievement).
The ‘Dark’s Daughter’ series will remain a fast-paced trilogy.The same is true for the ‘Wielders’ series. ‘The Servants’ is projected to be five books. I want the illusion and feel of Epic Fantasy without thousands of tedious pages describing buttons, lace, and pony-tail pulling, or the minute particulars of some city bureaucracy
Me: Your bio mentions acting in your life. What do you bring from that to your writing?
Joshua: The poetry, rhythm, and music of language. There’s an enormous difference between reading silently, and reading aloud. With Shakespeare in particular, the images are huge and hyperbolic, the action intense and over the top. The stage is a necessarily exaggerated and extreme means of exploring human nature and possibility because the action is right there in your face.
As an author, you play God in your worlds. You’re everycharacter, and none of them. That’s a life lesson in acting as well as inwriting.
Me: Self-publishing can be a lonely place- what advice would yougive first time authors starting on the road?
It has been a primarily lonely place with very few lights in the darkness. It’s an evolving learning process and crisis of fire. How do I reach people? Why aren’t people reading or responding? Is the work totally worthless? No potential at all? Do I lack the talent to succeed? Maybe I’m not as smart as I’d like to think I am. I’ll live in this car until it becomes my coffin. Etc.
Basically, you’re confronted with yourself. You are challenged, you are pushed, you don’t know what to do or where to go. You’re laying it all on the line, and maybe that all isn’t very much.
All I can say, really, is that the opportunity for success is there, if people know you exist, and share your concerns. I’ve learned that many people will simply ignore books from certain genres. Some self-published authors appear to have many, many friends helping them. Others not so much. Every situation is unique.
All you have is yourself, all you have to work with is yourself.Trust yourself, even, and especially, in front of the firing squad. What else can you do? Trust yourself. Be patient. Write.
Thanks to Joshua for some incredible answers. If you want to check out his book then follow the links and his web-site is also listed:
UK amazon link is here
US amazon link is right here...
And his website is http://www.joshuabigger.com/apps/blog/